Behind the Scenes of Gunch--Audio

Since a few people have asked about it, I'll give you all a quick behind the scenes look at our original Christmas Production, Gunch: This Christmas, Hope is Reaching for U. It stared off from a desire to do a simpler, less produced production this year for Christmas. But then we got a few creative people involved and it took off. We ended up with a pretty impressive original musical, and it's taking a lot of work to pull together. And judging by the amount of opposition we've faced in the spiritual realm, we're pretty sure God is going to use this in a pretty amazing way.

Today, I'll talk a little bit about our audio process. We have some incredible musicians at Coast Hills, and it's a lot of fun to work with them. This year, our band and vocalists are taking up almost 40 inputs. I actually had a full 40 scheduled, but there were a few last minute cuts. This is actually way down from years past when well over 80 were used. I had to work hard to get things down to 40 because while we can handle 96 at FOH and 48 in monitors (PM-5D EX and M7-CL-48 respectively), we only have a 40 channel split. Not sure who thought that was a good idea, but there you go.

To work around that limitation, we got creative in what we patched where. I'm attaching an input list if you want to see exactly what we're doing. A few things of note. First, our piano player, Rob, is also the musical director. He needed a mic to be able to communicate with the band; however, he's not going to be in the house. So we ran that mic straight into the M7, saving a split channel.

We also have 14 channels of wireless for the actors. There's no way that would fit into the split, let alone the M7, so we ran those straight to the PM5D. We'll then fold them back to monitor world as a single mix that the band will be able to hear and key off of. We also have several playback of sound effects and a few video rolls. Those too will be folded back on another fold back mix. That will give the monitor engineer the control between wireless mics and playback.

Because we have so many musical numbers, we needed a way for the actors to hear the band. However, to avoid feedback, we can't have their mics in the stage monitors. That problem was solved by using the JF-80s we used to use for front fills as monitors across the front lip of the stage. We then set up a mix-minus for the actors--that is, all the band and playback they'll need, but no wireless mics. Because the front fills were already patched and wired to be fed from a Matrix at FOH, I simply created a dedicated mix and routed that mix to the matrix, making sure that the main LR mix was no longer feeding the matrix (which would have let the wireless mics in).

Perhaps the greatest challenge of the event, audio-wise, is packing the band in. We have less than 450 sq. ft. of floor space for them to set up in; however, we have a full drum kit, percussion, bass, two keyboards, a woodwinds player and two guitarists, 10 vocalists, and 11 wedges (we originally had 13, but one of the keyboardists agreed to switch to ears to save floor space). Oh, and I think we have about 20 ColorBlast 12s on the floor behind the band for good measure.

One thing that has been very refreshing (at least in my experience) is that we've had no wireless issues at all. I ran all 14 the other night at rehearsal and had nary a drop out or any blip of feedback. Just last Friday, I installed a new rack of Shure UHF-R, and I've got to say, it's rock-solid. It sounds appreciably better than the UHF stuff it replaced, and the ability to monitor RF and audio levels plus battery at FOH through Wireless Workbench is super-sweet. I spent a good bit of time getting that system set up well and wired properly, but that's another post. Personally, I'm really glad it works!

More to come as Gunch takes shape. Here's the Input Sheet if you want to see it.